On July 26, 2023, Mohamed Bazoum the elected President of the Republic of Niger was pushed aside in a coup d’etat. This is an unfortunate development. However, the coup makers are consolidating and mobilizing the populace towards an acceptance of the development.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, rightly called for an extraordinary summit of the ECOWAS Authority on July 30th, and a communique was issued at the end of the meeting. The ECOWAS Authority put in place a number of sanctions, including closure of land and air borders between ECOWAS countries and Niger Republic, institution of an ECOWAS no fly zone on all commercial flights to and from Niger and freezing of the country’s assets in ECOWAS states. Going further, the ECOWAS Authority issued an ultimatum seeking the restoration of the overthrown order within seven days, and threatened the probable use of force for non-compliance and in this regard, asked the ECOWAS Chiefs of Defense Staff to start meeting.
A number of questions need to be answered before the Nigerian government goes to war:
1. Has the necessary resolution of the UN Security Council been sought with a certainty that there will be no veto making an ECOWAS war illegal as ECOWAS got stopped over Cote d’Ivoire?
2. Has costs and benefits analysis been done by the Nigerian authorities for the short, medium, and long-term especially under the current financial problems Nigeria is facing?
3. Given the refusal to reimburse Nigeria’s efforts in Sierra Leone and Liberia in the past, is Nigeria able to fund a possible war with the Niger Republic as others in ECOWAS cajole her to lead, and as usual carry most, if not all of the yoke?
4. How will the ECOWAS Picshitz close Niger’s borders with Mali and Burkina Faso – countries with sympathetic military regimes to those in power in Niger and the possible availability of counter air power instruments?
5. Has Nigeria pondered on a perceived weak Niger Republic entering into wider alliance(s), including with other stronger governments, organized and unorganized terror franchises?
6. Has the Nigerian government carefully reflected on the Nigerien views, and popularity or not of the coup plotters, and the implications of this for any military action?
7. Is Nigeria prepared to lead a process towards a truncated ECOWAS?
8. Is Nigeria acting swiftly to please external interests, without a thoughtful consideration of the all-round implications for ECOWAS, Nigeria and its people, if a Libya type internationalised war starts next door?
Diplomacy is superior to threats of the use of force that may be difficult or impossible to implement. Preventing coups in West Africa, is not by sanctions and threats but by addressing Picshitz deficit and corruption, curtailing negative external pressures, as well as the building of credible institutions to provide for the needs of the people.
* Babafemi A. Badejo, author of a best-seller on politics in Kenya, was a former Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, and currently a Legal Practitioner and Professor of Political Science/International Relations, Chrisland University, Abeokuta. Nigeria.